Saturday, November 29, 2008


So I made another batch of bacon. Ran up to Penn Dutch in Hollywood and got a whole pork belly for a very reasonable price. This time I took photos of at least some of the process.

I split the belly in half and made about 4lbs of maple bacon and 4lbs of cracked black pepper. Basic recipe out of Charcuterie, basic cure + maple syrup or black pepper. Here you can see them side by side after curing.

The big revelation on this one was I finally got my smoker to cooperate and not overcook the bacon. I use a Weber Smokey Mountain "bullet" smoker, and while it does a great job of holding 225 for 10 hours it doesn't really like to go cooler. But this time I did a modified 'Minion Method' start and it kept a great 180 for several hours. Just fill the charcoal pan about half full, sprinkle whatever wood you're using (I used maple, alder and a bit of hickory), and add 20 lit briquettes. Fill the pan with cold water, and the lit coals will slowly spread keeping the temp nice and low. Worked like a charm, didn't get any dry or toasty bits and got to an internal temp of 140 before I pulled them.Here you can see the pepper bacon being trimmed into two nice sections, and some knobby end bits. Those were chopped up and used in a soup. Both maple and pepper came out great, the best attempt yet.
Read more


So last weekend our CSA started up, and just in time for Thanksgiving. In our half-share we got a bunch of lettuce, some mizuna, some hakurei turnips, a Monroe avocado, two pounds of green beans, some fresh dill and 8 pickling cucumbers. So last weekend I made pickles.

The jar of dill pickles is on the left, sweet on the right. Both recipes came from Charcuterie. It has occurred to me that it might seem like I only have one cookbook and I assure you that's not the case. I'm not trying to pull one of those French Laundry At Home blogs... But Charcuterie is seriously excellent. I'll open them in a couple weeks.
Read more

Brew Day: Saison Hiver

So I took the yeast cake from the bottom of the Saison d' Ete and brewed a dark winter saison. It's based on the recipe from Zymurgy, adapted to the ingredients on hand.

At the last minute, instead of using the Dark Candi Sugar and Turbinado I took a 1lb cake of Palm Sugar, inverted it and caramelized it for about 45 minutes until it was quite dark and added it at 5 minutes remaining. It goes into secondary tomorrow and I'll add the vanilla bean and cinnamon then.

Also discovered that the reason my last saison's gravity was so low was that I'd underestimated the final volume. As I found out when I racked from the 6.5 gallon primary to the 5.5 gallon secondary and it overflowed all over my floor. Ooops. Tasted great though. Think I'm going to etch gallon markings onto the carboys soon.

Saison Hiver
Belgian Specialty Ale

Type: All Grain

Date: 11/6/2008

Batch Size: 5.50 gal

Brewer: Russell Everett
Boil Size: 7.78 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 90 min Equipment: Brew Pot (15 Gal) and Igloo/Gott Cooler (10 Gal)
Taste Rating(out of 50): 35.0 Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00
Taste Notes:


Amount Item Type % or IBU
11 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 70.97 %
1 lbs Munich (Cargill) (9.5 SRM) Grain 6.45 %
1 lbs Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 6.45 %
8.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L (120.0 SRM) Grain 3.23 %
8.0 oz Wheat Malt, Pale (Weyermann) (2.0 SRM) Grain 3.23 %
4.0 oz Carafa I (Weyermann) (320.0 SRM) Grain 1.61 %
1.50 oz Sterling [7.50 %] (60 min) Hops 30.4 IBU
0.50 oz Sterling [7.50 %] (20 min) Hops 6.1 IBU
0.11 oz Cinnamon Stick (Secondary 5.0 min) Misc
0.55 oz Vanilla Bean (Secondary 5.0 min) Misc
12.0 oz Candi Sugar, Dark (275.0 SRM) Sugar 4.84 %
8.0 oz Turbinado (10.0 SRM) Sugar 3.23 %
1 Pkgs Belgian Saison I Ale (White Labs #WLP565) Yeast-Ale

Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 1.079 SG

Measured Original Gravity: 1.010 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.023 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.005 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 7.44 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 0.65 %
Bitterness: 36.5 IBU Calories: 43 cal/pint
Est Color: 27.6 SRM Color:

Mash Profile

Mash Name: Single Infusion, Light Body Total Grain Weight: 14.25 lb
Sparge Water: 3.44 gal Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F TunTemperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE Mash PH: 5.4 PH

Single Infusion, Light Body
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
75 min Mash In Add 4.00 gal of water at 161.5 F 149.0 F
10 min Mash Out Add 2.85 gal of water at 199.0 F 168.0 F

Mash Notes: Simple single infusion mash for use with most modern well modified grains (about 95% of the time).
Read more

Charcuterie: I Made Hot Dogs!

Right, it's been a while and it's time for posts. I've been using my wife's camera to take photos of various things and it turns out that actually getting them off the camera is a bit of a challenge. But first up: I made Hot Dogs!

I used the recipe from Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie. These are All-Beef Chicago-Style, with no mechanically separated meat, raccoon parts, or old boots used at all. It took me three days and about 8 hours of work to make 12 hot dogs. Was it worth it? Oh yes.

The recipe is as follows:

1 lb. Boneless Lean Beef (I used chuck)
1 lb. Beef Suet

3/4 oz kosher salt
1/2 tsp Pink Salt
10 oz. Crushed Ice

2T Corn Syrup
1 tsp dextrose
1 tsp minced garlic
1 T dry mustard
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1/4 tsp white pepper

5 feet or so of hog casings (or use 10 feet or so of sheep for skinny dogs)

Step One was to make suet, on account of I don't have any idea where to buy it around here. I asked the butcher at Norman Brothers if I could get some "beef fat trimmings" and he looked at me like I'd grown a second head. "I'm making hot dogs and I need fat." "So you want some sirloin?" "Um, no, I just need beef fat." Which brings me to an issue I've been having. Seriously, it is irritating how the state of the butcher's art has declined. Most supermarkets are near useless, and even Whole Foods has turned out to be generally unhelpful. Fortunately there's a few good specialty and Cuban places around here that can hook me up. Anyway, it was finally communicated that I was making hot dogs from scratch, which fascinated the butcher at the counter, and resulted in a wonderful cry to the back of "Hey, get the fat bucket!" Now we're talking. So I got about 6lbs of beef fat scraps for $6 and went home to render.

I brought out the big cleaver and went to town on the scraps. In retrospect I might have bothered to run it through the grinder, the yield would probably have been higher.

So all the bits went into a pot with about a half cup of water. Then it went on low until it was simmering a bit. When it had done that for a half hour or so I popped it in a 200 degree oven and left it for about 4 hours.

When I was done I ended up with a good pound and a quarter of pure delicious beef suet, and maybe a half-pound of rendered beefy jelly. (The jelly went into a beef stew and was delicious. The process also left crusty little bits of beef that had essentially confited in the fat. They went into some carnitas tacos and were also delicious.)

Here it is on the left after it cooled. The next day it was time to make hot dogs. Hot Dogs are an emulsified sausage, with bits of meat suspended in a paste of fatty goodness. Heat is your enemy on this one. So the chuck and suet were diced and put into the freezer until crunchy but not frozen solid. Then they were ground through the large die onto a baking sheet and put into the freezer again. Then, it was mixed with the salt, pink salt, and ice through the small die and into my Kitchenaide bowl set in ice. Added the corn syrup, dextrose and spices and whipped it on high for about 6 minutes with the paddle attachment.

Mmmm looks delicious no?

Did a quenelle test like the recipe said and discovered that I am terrible at doing the quenelle test. Soldiered on and loaded the mess into my sausage stuffer and made links of varrying regularity...

Now, normally these would be left to dry out a bit for a day and then smoked. But the weekend was over and I just didn't have the patience or time to fire up the smoker. So the next day my darling wife poached these at 160-180 F till cooked and ready to eat (140 F internal).

I figured that by grilling them I'd get enough smoky goodness to make up for it, and I was more or less correct. The final verdict? They were possibly the most amazing hot dogs I've ever had. Like the best dog you ever had at your first baseball game with your father when you were six kind of awesome. You can see the finished product below next to some very bland looking leftover coleslaw and potato salad.

My only advice: cook them properly. On the grill, George Forman, or whatever is ok, just make sure to take an internal temp reading and hit 150. If it's colder then water inside sortof comes out in a lukewarm rush. Not good eats. But if it's hot enough it comes out in a toasty warm flood of deliciousness.

Will I make them again? Maybe. I think I could streamline the process a bit. Still a lot of work though. But worth it.
Read more

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brew Day - Saison d'été

Sunday was a brew day, and in preparation of a monster yeast cake to ferment an upcoming Winter Saison (our Christmas beer this year!), I decided to brew an normal refreshing summertime Saison.

"Summertime!?!", I hear you say, "but it's November!" Well we're in Miami and it's 81 outside, so ha! You get your revenge when it's July and pleasant wherever you are and it's unbearable here.

The brewday was full of hinderances and distractions. I was also kegging the Pumpkin ale and the brew was delayed a whole day because I had to buy more propane. Once everything got going it was ok. Only major mistake was that I added the aroma hops at 20 minutes for some reason, probably having to do with my not using fining agents and some kind of unconscious need to add something around 20 minutes left. So by my calculations it will have upped the IBUs to 45-50 and I appear to have made a Chouffe IPA.... Oh well, I'm sure it will taste fine. I also had a lower gravity than expected, 1.063 instead of 1.070, which I attribute to a slightly lower mash temp and a slightly higher final volume. And I didn't have any oranges so I used about 3/4 of a tangerine peel instead. Used homemade invert sugar rather than buy candi sugar, this could also account for the differences in projected vs. actual gravity.

This brew was done with a packet of Wyeast VSS Farmhouse (3726) yeast, which appears to be chugging along well. I pitched around 72, and have just let it run. The fridge is set to turn on if the ambient temp goes above 80, but room temp is 78 still so I don't think it will happen. This yeast can go into the 90's, so hopefully it doesn't want to be hotter! I may just move it out into a room and put a blanket over it, let the internal heat build up.

The rececipe is based on the Saison Ete from Zymurgy a couple month's back, in their article A Saison For Every Season. Didn't have any aciduated malt, so if it needs it I'll add some lactic acid at bottling. This was a 'use things in the fridge' brew, hence the extensive use of Sterlings. I had about a quarter ounce of leftover Saaz that I just threw in too.

Saison Ete

Brew Type: All Grain Date: 11/8/2008
Style: Saison Brewer: Russell Everett
Batch Size: 5.50 gal Assistant Brewer:
Boil Volume: 7.39 gal Boil Time: 60 min
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 % Equipment: Brew Pot (15 Gal) and Igloo/Gott Cooler (10 Gal)
Actual Efficiency: 65.34 %

Amount Item Type % or IBU
8 lbs 8.0 oz Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 61.82 %
3 lbs Wheat Malt, Pale (Weyermann) (2.0 SRM) Grain 21.82 %
1 lbs Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 7.27 %
4.0 oz Caravienne Malt (22.0 SRM) Grain 1.82 %
0.25 oz Sterling [7.50 %] (60 min) Hops 5.3 IBU
1.50 oz Styrian Goldings [5.40 %] (60 min) Hops 22.8 IBU
1.75 oz Sterling [7.50 %] (5 min) Hops 7.4 IBU
0.25 tsp Black Pepper (Boil 5.0 min) Misc
0.25 tsp Coriander Seed (Boil 5.0 min) Misc
0.50 items Fresh Orange Peel (Boil 5.0 min) Misc
1 lbs Candi Sugar, Clear (0.5 SRM) Sugar 7.27 %
1 Pkgs Farmhouse VSS 3726 (Wyeast) Yeast-Ale

Beer Profile
Estimated Original Gravity: 1.070 SG (1.048-1.080 SG) Measured Original Gravity: 1.062 SG
Estimated Final Gravity: 1.015 SG (1.010-1.016 SG) Measured Final Gravity: 1.012 SG
Estimated Color: 5.0 SRM (5.0-12.0 SRM) Color [Color]
Bitterness: 35.5 IBU (25.0-45.0 IBU) Alpha Acid Units: 10.0 AAU
Estimated Alcohol by Volume: 7.26 % (5.00-8.50 %) Actual Alcohol by Volume: 6.53 %
Actual Calories: 277 cal/pint

Mash Profile
Name: Double Infusion, Light Body Mash Tun Weight: 9.00 lb
Mash Grain Weight: 12.75 lb Mash PH: 5.4 PH
Grain Temperature: 72.0 F Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F
Sparge Water: 1.75 gal Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE

Name Description Step Temp Step Time
Protein Rest Add 2.87 gal of water at 132.1 F 122.0 F 30 min
Saccrification Add 2.55 gal of water at 187.9 F 150.0 F 30 min
Mash Out Add 2.55 gal of water at 210.3 F 168.0 F 10 min

Mash Notes
Double step infusion - for light body beers requiring a protein rest. Used primarily in beers high in unmodified grains or adjuncts.

Read more

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Stone in FL / Bottle TM controversy

Right, so it's been a while since I've had an update. Chalk it up to school and preparations for our biannual Election Day party. So first a couple small things.

1. Stone is coming to South Florida in mid-November! Rumor has it down the vine that a local distributor will be carrying the brewery's normal lineup of beers, Arrogant Bastard, Ruination IPA, etc. No word yet on whether we'll see their seasonals or the Vertical Epic series. This was a big topic of discussion at the 2006 AHA Conference in Orlando, where Stone CEO Greg Koch dashed all of our hopes by telling us that it would be years (2009 as I remember) before we'd see Stone in Florida. Well, it's almost 2009 and apparently patience pays. With any luck we'll get it on tap at the Titanic first!

2. The New York Times City Room blog has an interesting blog article about a trademark dispute between Garret Oliver's Brooklyn Brewery and New Belgium/Westmalle Abbey. Apparently the bottle design for Brooklyn's "Local 1" ale is too close for comfort to New Belgium and Westmalle's bottles. At the heart of the dispute is the raised ring around the neck of the bottle. Westmalle has traditionally used a single raised ring with the brewery's name on it, as has Colorado's New Belgium Brewing, and the double raised rings on Brooklyn's bottles raised some eyebrows. See below:

Brooklyn agreed to back down and redesign their bottles, at a cost of $60,000.

I actually wonder if they should have given up so easily. Certainly this is a perfect example of what the mere spectre of an Intellectual Property suit can do to a company, but they might have had some defenses. For example, one could argue that Westmalle and New Belgium's trade dress in their bottle shape hasn't acquired secondary meaning, at least within the US market. (How many average beer drinkers know Westmalle exists, let alone what its "distinctive" bottle looks like?) Yes the bottle shape is part of the the overall presentation package, but I doubt the popularity of these brands (delicious as they are!) is such that they have a credible secondary meaning in the mere raised ring.

And there's no chance of confusion to the consumer, as 1) the consumer is probably looking at the label anyway, and 2) though Westmalle does come in a 75cl corked bottle, that bottle doesn't have the raised ring! Nor do New Belgium's large corked bottles (La Folie, for example) come with the raised ring.

However, it is possible that the monks might have some sort of protection under treaty or international convention, TRIPS for example.

Just goes to show how murky IP issues can be, and, in Brooklyn's case, how sometimes they're just not worth fighting over.
Read more